Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Of field trips

And final solutions.

The Wire was a show with few moments of optimism. But there’s a very brief scene in episode 8 of season 3 in which the crime-ravaged sections of the city are portrayed as peaceful and thriving. Residents are shown painting their homes and sweeping the stoops, greeting the mailman and each other with hearty smiles. It’s the only time we see a Baltimore that doesn’t look like hell on acid.

Why the peacefulness? Because a well-meaning police major named “Bunny” Colvin has, in a highly unauthorized and unsanctioned “experiment,” moved all the dealers and users away, shuffling them off to a newly created “safe zone” called Amsterdam (misunderstood by the dealers as “Hamsterdam”) where drug crimes will be ignored, as long as the offenders stay in the quarantine zone. Former mayor Schmoke, who advocated drug decriminalization while in office, appears in a few of these episodes, such was the overlap between real-life Baltimore and Wire Baltimore.

The message of season 3 and the “Baltimore is now at peace” scene? There is only one cure for the city’s ills: physical removal of the bad element. This was the best solution Simon could come up with. The “Hamsterdam” story arc delivered the message loud and clear: The problem with Baltimore is the people. Specifically, the segment of the population that’s not salvageable. The “trash” that needs to be removed isn’t of the banana peel and dog poop variety. The trash is human.

Talk about a downer. Leave it to Simon to give the series’ one truly uplifting scene a terrifying undercurrent.

Soon enough, Colvin’s superiors get wind of what he’s doing. “Hamsterdam” is dismantled and the neighborhoods go back to the war zones they were. But for one shining moment, Bunny Colvin saved Baltimore via population transfer…the segregation of the irredeemable to a quarantined area in order to “salvage what’s still worth salvaging” for the “decent people.” Those are the exact words Simon put in the mouth of one of his most consistently sympathetic, even heroic, characters (Colvin is one of the few Wire characters without a dark side).

“Salvage what’s still worth salvaging” for the “decent people.” On The Wire, that meant Nazi-style resettlement and containment. Unworkable in real life, unthinkable in America. Simon may claim that Trump’s a Nazi, but he’s the one who dreamed up a “final solution.”

A “final solution” that will never and can never become policy.

More and more, I think the only “solution” to a problem like Baltimore is the one I outlined in arguably my grimmest column to date, back in February 2018. Mainstream conservatives will continue to spew their fairy-tale solutions (“Oh boy, Spanky—a scrap metal drive!”) and leftists will continue to spew theirs (“Reparations! More welfare!”). But in the end, like it or not, we’re heading for the age of the de facto “urban reservation.” The salvageable people will get out, the salvageable surrounding land will be gentrified, and the remaining detritus will be boxed in and forgotten. The fact that most Americans expressed outrage at the recent spate of mass shootings while continuing to ignore gun crimes in black inner cities shows the increasing popularity of “What happens on the reservation is none of my business.”

We can argue nature vs. nurture and American dream vs. oppressive racism all we want. The solution will eventually take shape in spite of our grandstanding.

I think Cole is on target overall with this. But if recent history is any guide, “the salvageable people will get out” all right—and then rapidly turn the places they flee to into the exact same kind of shitholes they contributed so much to fucking up in the first place.

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1 thought on “Of field trips

  1. I remember a movie in the 70’s called Escape From New York. Probably most of you have seen it. For the few who haven’t, New York City is a penal colony for the most hardened and incorrigible criminals. They are free to fend for themselves and do whatever they want with and to each other, but once you go in you don’t come out, and being an island there is no escape. The only problem with such a scenario in real life is, just like we see today with leftists in positions of power who oppress traditional Americans, is the question of just WHO, exactly, gets to make the decision as to which people are ‘irredemable’ and ‘deplorable’.

    We have a federal judiciary that has been out of control for a very long time. Ditto state and municipal law enforcement. When people are sent to federal prison for decades for having a shotgun that is 1/4″ too short, when Amish farms are raided by paramilitary assault teams for selling unpasteurized milk, and when lawmakers can even consider passing laws that would arrest a person’s guns, not the person himself, because some leftist somewhere thinks he ‘might’ be dangerous, then it is abundantly obvious that the wrong people are making the decisions of what is fair, just, right, proper, and legal under the law.

    So until we solve that problem, I take a somewhat jaundiced view of removing certain individuals from communities. August Pinochet saved his nation of Chile from descending into the kind of leftist, Socialist hell that we see in Venezuela today. He did it by identifying and ‘disappearing’ about two hundred people who were at the heart of the Marxist movement that was trying to wrest control from the lawfully elected government. He obviously got the right 200 people. As long as we have people who know right from wrong making the decisions about who to remove from society, I am okay with such a program. But that is always the tricky part, isn’t it?

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